Ahem. This was me as a teen.
Annnnnnd this is me as an old-ish person. (I work with teens now at my day job.)
Other than the loss of that sexy perm-style and an addition of a few many years of life, I’m actually not sure much has changed. I still love Def Leppard. I still adore hanging out with friends and sharing life and laughter over a table of fries and soda. And I still love writing (or attempting to write) random lines on scrap paper.
Column by Mary Weber, author of SIREN’S SONG (March 1, 2016,
Thomas Nelson), and the Storm Siren Trilogy. In her spare time, she feeds
unicorns, sings 80’s hairband songs to her three muggle children, and ogles
her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. They live in California, which
is perfect for stalking tacos, Joss Whedon, and the ocean. You can find her on
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
I also still adore the same books.
You know the ones. The stories that inspired imagination and growth because we connected with them on a level we thought no one else understood? They are the ones I studied repeatedly because they moved something in me.
At the time I wished I’d had the ability to write those books (and oh I tried). Now, as an adult and author, they still inspire those feelings. They are the ones I go to when wanting to recall certain memories or strong emotions. They are what I dissect for elements and themes when, as a writer, I want to ignite that same excitement in my teen readers.
Because let’s face it – those elements make for a darn good story.
(1) ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card
I can’t remember the first time I read this sci-fi beauty, but I clearly recall the power it evoked. I was in Ender’s head, and even more so, in his heart, struggling as an outsider trying to get by in an overwhelming world. Bullies, expectation, fear, compassion for the underdog…the level of emotional realism set in this sci-fi world is what connected me on a familiar level. And it’s what I strive for in my own stories.
(2) ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS by Scott O’Dell
As an author passionate about Diversity in YA, this book more than any other impacted me on that front as a teen. My own Cherokee heritage and California childhood had me interested, but O’Dell’s representation of the Nicoleño people is what brought cultural beauty alive in me and in this story of Juana Maria. At the same time, no matter what ethnic or lifestyle differences spanned between us, her loss and palpable loneliness gripped me at a level that said, “Our lives and looks might be worlds apart, but we’re all part of the human race.”
(3) ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L.M. Montgomery
A beloved classic, this series held more than mere anecdotes of a fiery redhead outsmarting the school boys. It portrayed female empowerment like I’d never read, and portrayed feminism and fun and standing up for your internal self—and then standing up for others. Those themes influenced more than just my own books later on. They affected my teen friendships and relationships along the way.
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(4) DUNE by Frank Herbert
Like ENDER’S GAME, I can’t recall the first time I picked up DUNE, but I do remember seeing my brother reading it and that’s what piqued my curiosity. However, it was the fantastic world building that held it. Such a high stakes sci-fi with imaginative worlds and spice worms (worms!) and rules rooted deep enough in reality as to allow visions of those deserts. Still one of my all-time faves.
(5) THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien
How an author can take a fantasy world filled with dwarves, elves, hobbits, and eagles, and make it relatable to modern society, is mind-blowing. Let alone his ability to carve a lasting impression regarding selfishness and war, honor, hope, and the human condition. For his societal observations (without preaching commentary) I love Tolkien. Also for the dragon. Ahem.
So those are my five books and their five themes that spoke to me—emotional realism, cultural representation, empowerment, world building, and the human condition. Subjects that not only enriched my reading experience but also encouraged my teen heart toward bigger insights. And as an author, they are the aspects I strive to incorporate into my own books and maybe, just maybe, inspire my readers with.
Maybe you have a list as well?
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- Oct. 28–30, 2016: Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference (Los Angeles, CA)
- Nov. 19, 2016: Las Vegas Writing Workshop (Las Vegas, NV)
- Feb. 11, 2017: Writers Conference of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN)
- Feb. 16–19, 2017: San Francisco Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)
- Feb. 25, 2017: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
- Feb. 26–March 3, 2017: Writers Winter Escape Cruise (conference/cruise departing Miami)
- March 25, 2017: Michigan Writers Conference (Detroit, MI)
- April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)
- May 6, 2017: Seattle Writers Conference (Seattle, WA)
- July 22, 2017: Tennessee Writers Workshop (Nashville, TN)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer’s Digest Conference (New York, NY)
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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- 5 Networking Tips for Writers.
- Agent Amy Tannenbaum reps new adult, romance, and women’s fiction.
- Bring More Authenticity to Your Historical Novel: 11 Ideas.
- What It’s Like to Work With a Publishing House Editor on Your Book.
- Agent Andy Ross puts out a call for queries.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and writing a query letter.